It was a divine June day as the cold sea wind shocked some life into me. After all, it was not yet dawn and I was envisioning being in a warm bed, still staring at the inside of my eyelids. But instead, here I was, up at this ungodly hour, making my way to a boat. I bore a heavy duty windbreaker, a solemn omen of things to come. “Whose ready for some bear watching?,” the captain asked.
And so we set off, away from my home for the past two days, the simply sublime town of Tofino, located at the edge of North America on Canada‘s Vancouver Island. And these bears were real and completely wild. See, I’ve even got the photos to prove it!
Fear not, for I was safely on a boat watching as families of bears traversed the rocky beaches of the endless string of islands surrounding Tofino. And, though bear watching is not your every day sort of activity, it is one of many outdoor gems one can partake in at this laid back gem of a beach town.
Tofino is the reward of a scenic 5 hour drive from the provincial capital of Victoria, one which winds its way through wineries, scenic hills and the true natural majesty and mind blowing beaches of Canada’s Pacific Rim National Park.
This quirky little town is full of charm, teeming with a divine, laid-back character. It’s a place to kick back and enjoy the fantastic seafood or explore the great outdoors to your hearts content. See, the surrounding islands are full of potentials for exploration. Hiking, cycling, kayaking, canoeing, surfing (Tofino is supposedly one of the best places for surfing on the West Coast…) wildlife viewing…there is simply something here for everyone!
Take whale watching, for instance. The supposed “experts” will tell you that it’s one of those “must-do” activities in Tofino, so I figured, “what the heck?” It was my first excursion of this kind and my first experience out on the water here (much like my Bear Watching trip, the whale watching experience was generously provided by West Coast Aquatic Safaris, though, of course, all opinions here are entirely my own). Large boat? Check. Heavy duty coat? Check. Camera? Check. A stomach of steel? Well…
If there’s one thing I learned from my whale watching experience it’s that there is absolutely no guarantee you will see much at all. We DID see whales (my best picture is below…pardon the fuzziness…it’s tough to shoot an object moving so quickly while on a boat that keeps moving in the waves!) but I don’t think any of us felt it was worth the hefty price tag (CAD$90). Most of our sightings were nothing more than a spout in the water followed by a hint of grey peeking over the waves. Not exactly what we were envisioning after all those promotional shots. Now, Bear Watching on the other hand? Completely worth it and highly recommended!
Charm in Lodging
Part of Tofino’s charm lies in its lack of chain…well…just about everything! Want to find a place to sleep? Look no further than Main Street for a seemingly endless stream of accommodations that are, in fact, peoples homes that they have converted into guest houses. I certainly can’t speak for all of them, but the Tofino Traveller’s Guesthouse, where I stayed with fellow bloggers Skinny Backpacker and What’s Dave Doing, was just divine, thanks mostly the amazing hospitality of Nick, the proprietor, who insisted we simply had to stay a second day to experience “Salmon Wednesday,” when CAD$5 bought you as much grilled, incredibly fresh salmon you could eat!
Between that amazing meal and the truly incredible food at SOBO (seriously, try their seafood chowder…), I ate the best seafood I have ever had in those two short days in Tofino. And after dinner, there was little to do but get a popsicle and meander down to the docks to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, a truly divine sight.
Everyone I talked to about my travel plans told me to go to Tofino, and I am happy to report that this is a destination that truly does live up to the hype. So I too, will now join that chorus. If you’re on Vancouver Island…go to Tofino. You won’t be disappointed! It’s as simple as that!